This is true only if you have insomnia. “In fact, more employers should not only recommend napping but also facilitate it, especially for people working the night shift.”. Otherwise, “napping can help to improve performance later in the day,” says Cote.
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Losing even 90 minutes of sleep for just one night can reduce your daytime alertness by as much as 32%. That's enough to impair your memory, your thinking ability, and your safety on the job and on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each year at least 100,000 crashes, and more than 1,500 deaths, are the direct result of driver fatigue. One Australian study found that volunteers who stayed awake just 6 hours past their normal bedtime for a single day performed as poorly on tests gauging attentiveness and reaction time as those who were legally drunk.
In fact, research shows that even vigorous exerciseright before bedtime doesn't affect sleep for many people (and in some cases it may help). That's not true for everyone. This is good news if your busy schedule gives you a short window of time between dinner and bedtime to squeeze in some activity (here are 25 ways to fit in 10 minutes of exercise ).
Additional research suggests that repeated lack of sleep may also boost your risk of diabetes by speeding age-related changes in the way your body uses glucose (check out the 5 ways lack of sleep can make you gain weight ). After losing only the equivalent of one night's sleep over the course of a week, however, your body will respond as if you'd pulled an all-nighter: You may experience waves of extreme fatigue; itchy, burning eyes; emotional fragility; loss of focus; even hunger as your body tries to find a way (“Aha! Twinkies!”) to become energized and stay upright. Sleep debt can also cause serious health problems down the line. Some recent studies suggest that decades of chronic sleep deprivation may increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
You'll still function worse than you would with a full night's sleep, but you'll function better than you would had you gone to bed at 10. If you have only 4 hours to spare for sleep, snoozing in the early morning (2 am to 6 am) will benefit you more than will late-night sleep (10 pm to 2 am), a recent Stanford University study suggests. Do just the opposite.
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“But we don't have hard data, so people really have to do their own testing,” says Dr. People who have trouble sleeping can probably exercise about an hour before bed without problems. Perlis.
If you're still waking up tired and lurching to Starbucks in midafternoon, move your bedtime another 45 minutes to an hour earlier. Staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes before you drift off? Shift your new bedtime later in 15-minute increments until you hit your magic hour. Take a week or so to experiment. How will you know? You'll wake up refreshed, you'll feel in top form at work, and decaf will do. Keep your rising time the same but move your bedtime back an hour for 3 or 4 days—say, from midnight to 11 o'clock.
If you exercise at night and suspect that your workout may be keeping you up, reschedule it for earlier in the day for several days to see whether you sleep better. Keeping a sleep diary for those days—noting when you exercise and how well you sleep—can help. If you find you do sleep better when you exercise earlier, make the switch permanent. What you should do: Experiment.
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In fact, if you feel drowsy during the day—for example, you fall asleep on Sunday afternoon while reading a page-turner such as The Da Vinci Code —you may be running a significant “sleep debt.” That's sleep research lingo for the total hours of sleep you've lost, one sleep-deprived night after another. And it's cumulative. Here's how it happens: If you need 8 hours of sleep and get only 7, after a week you've lost the equivalent of almost one night's sleep. That's your sleep debt. One expert estimates that the average sleep debt among Americans is 500 hours a year.
What you should do Nap as early in the day as possible, so your homeostat can build up the necessary hunger for sleep that will propel you into slumber come nightfall. (Set an alarm clock.) If you nap longer, you'll be more likely to awaken from deep sleep and feel groggy. And snooze for no more than 30 minutes. Nap less, and you won't feel refreshed.
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Do you have insomnia? To find out, ask yourself:. What you should do: First, determine what's causing your sleep debt; the remedy for it will depend on the right diagnosis.
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He knows that the “Everyone needs at least 8 hours of sleep” maxim is about as bona fide as Bigfoot. Nor the night before. Now and then, when he has a pressing work deadline, he gets 5. You'd think Michael Perlis would know better. Perlis, director of the University of Rochester's Sleep and Neurophysiology Research Lab, knows something you don't. “Certain popular beliefs, like the 8-hour rule, are misconceptions,” says Dr. “In fact, some of these misconceptions can actually contribute to sleep problems like chronic insomnia.”. But you won't find him napping over his computer keyboard at 3:00 in the afternoon. Perlis didn't get 8 hours of sleep last night. In fact, the most sleep Perlis ever gets is 7 hours. That's because Dr. An MD and one of the nation's preeminent sleep researchers, Dr. Perlis, who wakes well rested after 7 hours.
“If you take one at 2 am, you can get up for work at 6 or 7 am, and the effect is gone,” Dr. These newer pills act on areas of the brain that promote wakefulness. The new generation medications also more closely replicate natural sleep. Hunt says. They also wear off faster than older meds, so you're not semicomatose in the morning. In contrast, the older drugs stinted users on the deepest and most restorative phases of sleep. These phases normally occur four or more times a night.
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What's worse, sleep deprivation also impairs your ability to recognize that you're not running on all cylinders. In other words, you really shouldn't be operating heavy machinery (or much else), but you don't realize it. “That's why you need to take preventive measures.”. “The ability to judge how well you're doing is probably one of the first things to go when you don't get enough sleep,” says Cote.
The more sleep hungry you are, the faster you nod off and the more soundly you doze. Blame it on something called the sleep homeostat. But just as you're not eager for a big meal at night if you pig out all day or snack too close to dinner, you're not going to feel tired if you go to bed earlier or nap. You know that the longer you go between meals and the more active you are, the hungrier you become. A hardwired system controlled by brain chemicals, it's not unlike your appetite. When you have insomnia, experts recommend that you let your sleep homeostat adjust itself naturally, without trying to compensate with different bedtimes and catnaps. Likewise, your homeostat builds up a hunger for sleep based on how long you've been awake and how active you've been.
Skip the next slide and go to the fourth for advice, because the Rx for insomnia is very different from remedies for other sleep problems. If the answer to either or both is yes, and it's happening three or more nights a week, insomnia is piling up your sleep debt.
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Stopping abruptly can trigger a recurrence of insomnia, so it's important that your doctor gradually taper your dose. Because they don't make you high, the drugs don't pose the same abuse potential, says Dement. “And contrary to another popular belief, they won't lose effectiveness over time, so you won't have to keep taking a higher and higher dose.” Getting off sleeping pills, however, can be tricky, he acknowledges.
After a few nights of tossing and turning, what's likely to keep you up is worrying about getting to sleep, says Cote. But insomnia often takes on a life of its own. Eventually, you start associating going to bed with worrying about falling asleep, so instead of easing you into slumber, your nervous system goes on high alert, anticipating—and bringing on—another sleepless night. Many things can keep you from falling or staying asleep: for example, consuming alcohol or caffeine, or feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed.
One exception: If you're a sedentary and overweight postmenopausal woman, a new study indicates that you'll sleep better if you exercise earlier in the day; exercising later can interfere with your sleep.
More from Prevention: How To Prevent Snoring.
She can diagnose and treat any contributing health problems or refer you to a sleep center. If your insomnia is chronic, see your doctor.
What you should do: It's always better to get a good night's sleep every night. You may need to invest in a white-noise machine unless you're able to sleep through the din of power lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and your kids' afternoon games in the backyard. But if you do rack up a sleep debt during the workweek, try to sleep in on the weekend or take a nap so you can pay at least part of it down, Dement says.
You'll end up finishing the week in the red, with an ever-bigger sleep debt. But it's not realistic. With Saturday morning Little League and all those inevitable weekend odd jobs, chances are you won't really be able to make up for the sleep you missed, says Dement. Unless you have insomnia, it's theoretically possible to make up for some lost sleep by dozing longer on the weekend.
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Like all medicines, they can cause side effects (dizziness, headache, agitation), and they're not meant for long-term use. Pills are still controversial.
The difference between less energetic and downright drowsy? If your eyelids feel heavy, you're tired, says William C. Dement, PhD, the Stanford University scientist known as the father of sleep research. It's a sign that you're not getting enough sleep if your head starts drooping while your boss is going over last month's figures or your adorably earnest preschooler is explaining why Superman bests Batman. It's normal to feel slightly less energetic in the afternoon, due to your circadian rhythms of sleepiness and wakefulness. But nodding off during a boring lecture, meeting, or your daughter's recital—especially in the midafternoon—isn't normal.
What you should do:
Actually, sleeping pills are most helpful if you take them before insomnia becomes chronic, says Dr. They can help correct your off-kilter sleep homeostat. Unlike older meds, newer prescription sleeping pills, such as Sonata (zaleplon) and Ambien (zolpidem), can help you drift off to sleep within minutes and stay asleep, thus breaking the cycle of sleeplessness and anxiety that can turn a few nights of insomnia into chronic sleeplessness. Hunt.
Step away from the bed! If you suffer from insomnia, all three of those “remedies” could make your tossing and turning much worse, says Kimberly Cote, PhD, a sleep researcher at Brock University in Ontario.
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To remedy it, you're going to have to adjust your bedtime. If your sleep is interrupted once in a while, one good night's sleep will help you feel refreshed. Chronic problems—worry, the snoring spouse, the snuggling pet, the noisy crab-apple branch outside your window—will require specific solutions (a visit to the doctor, a bed in the hallway for Fluffy, a skilled arborist). But if you're cheating yourself of sleep time “to get things done,” or if you just don't realize how much sleep you need, you have a “sleep phase disorder” of your own making.
Hunt, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, this bad habit is the number one cause of daytime sleepiness in the United States. Not an insomniac? Lots of things could be keeping you up or interrupting your sleep occasionally: worry, a child with nightmares, a pet hogging the pillow, a snoring spouse, even tree branches brushing against your house. In fact, says Carl E. Or if you're like millions of time-starved Americans, you could be regularly stealing from sleep time to finish the work you didn't get done at the office, to answer s, to pay bills, to do laundry, or to just have some quiet time for yourself.
The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read our Medical Advice Notice.
What you should do: Rest assured: A short course of sleeping pills won't turn you into a junkie.
The early-morning sleep you get will carry you only through late morning, so if that presentation is scheduled for the afternoon, try to sneak in a 30-minute nap during your lunch hour. By then your sleep homeostat will have you so tired, it'll catapult you into a particularly restful sleep, Perlis says. What you should do: Work until 2 am. You'll probably wake up feeling groggier than usual, so allow time for a shower and cup of coffee before heading out. Splash your face with water and sip your favorite stiff coffee when you wake up.
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At a conference in 2002, when sleep researcher Daniel Kripke, MD, from the University of California, San Diego, argued that getting less than 8 hours a night might be beneficial, “it practically started a food fight,” recalls Phil Eichling, MD, an eyewitness at that conference and a sleep researcher at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. But how much more or less sleep we should be getting is one of the most contentious issues in sleep research today.
It's more likely that people who are dozing so long have underlying health problems that cause their fatigue. Kripke has good reasons for giving the thumbs-down to the 8-hour rule. The highest risk was found among those who slept the longest. Dr. (It's a symptom of many conditions, including depression, heart disease, and cancer.). He conducted one of three studies that found that people who slept either 8 hours or more or 6 hours or less ran significant risks of dying of heart disease, stroke, or cancer. On the other hand, critics of the less-sleep-is-better school argue that getting too much sleep probably isn't hastening the Big Sleep.
(Remember poor Neely in Valley of the Dolls ?) But the newer drugs, known as nonbenzodiazepines, are unlikely to leave you hooked. At one time, sleeping pills were addictive barbiturates.
If you're one of the 60 to 70 million Americans with a sleep problem, there's a good chance a misconception or two may be keeping you up at night. Before you invest in a $1,500 mattress or spend a couple of nights wired with electrodes in a sleep disorders center, follow our truly soporific suggestions for a good night's rest every night. And see if you can trace your sleep problems to one of these 10 popular myths.
What you should do: Talk to your doc about the pros and cons of medication. Usually the therapy runs from four to eight sessions, but some patients find relief with as few as two. The downside of CBT: It costs about $300 per session and, unlike pills, is not always covered by insurance. If you'd prefer a drug-free alternative, consider cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). To find a board-certified therapist, contact the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Another natural option: these 7 herbal sleep inducers. Studies suggest it has a better outcome than pills. Similarly designed to break the cycle of sleepless, anxious nights, CBT trains insomniacs to avoid detriments such as counterproductive worry about lost sleep.
It ranges from as little as 5 hours to as much as 11 hours a night, says Gary Zammit, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Institute at St. Some people are 5-hours-a-night types who may be able to stay up to watch Letterman and still wake refreshed at 6 am. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. For now, the consensus is that the amount of sleep people need varies considerably. Others are 9-hour snoozers who should be asking, “Who's Letterman?” They just can't stay up that late. What you should do: Let the sleep researchers argue this one out.
“It depends.” Since our sleep requirements are partly inherited, some of us need more, or less, than others. Think most experts agree on this one? Wrong! “Asking how much sleep a healthy adult needs is like asking how many calories a healthy adult needs,” says Perlis.
Or ask if you can work from home. That way, you won't have to drive. And you may even be able to take a half-hour nap during your “lunch hour” at your home office. Or call a coworker and ask if she can give you a lift to the office. If you're nodding off at your desk, take a brisk walk up and down the stairs or hall. Remember to set an alarm, or ask a buddy to wake you ( your brain will thank you for it ). Exercise helps you snap to, in part because the accompanying rise in body temperature appears to boost alertness for a time. What you should do If you miss several hours of sleep one night, consider calling in sick the next day. If possible, set aside half your lunch hour for a nap—in the lounge (if it includes a couch), in your (locked) car, or even on your desk (clear it off first). If you have to go in and public transportation is an option, take it.
To figure out how much sleep you need, keep a diary for the next week or two, logging how much snooze time you get at night and how alert you feel the next day—without the use of stimulants such as coffee or a splash of cold water on the face in the afternoon. If you need stimulants to keep you awake, you're not getting enough sleep. And while you experiment, give these 6 essential tools for a good night's sleep a try.
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